Politics & Policy

Advice to the prez, &c.

A little advice for President Bush: Watch your rhetoric against opponents of the immigration bill. Be understanding of those who oppose it. Why? Well, in part, because they include some of the people who still love you — and that band is not getting any bigger.

#ad#I give the above advice even though I’m mindful of the old line about what free advice is worth.

And here is one more admonition: Not everyone who opposes the immigration bill is blind to the need to have some sort of solution — a solution to our immigration problems. Not everyone has his head in the sand.

Yes, we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. But “enforcement first” — and enforcement for real — is pretty good too.

‐You have heard the latest from Hillary Rodham Clinton (or has she reverted to plain old “Hillary Clinton,” now that she’s running for president?). I quote the AP: “The Democratic senator said what the Bush administration touts as an ‘ownership society’ really is an ‘on your own’ society that has widened the gap between rich and poor.”

Here was Hillary’s crowning touch: “I prefer a ‘we’re all in it together’ society.”

Uh-oh. When you hear rhetoric like that, guard your wallet, because it amounts to an apologia for socialism. A leader like Hillary comes in blasting “you’re on your own,” and touting “we’re all in it together.” They make themselves feel good through redistributionist and collectivist policies. And then the rest of the country feels bad — because such policies always impoverish and block.

Whereupon a free-marketeer has to come in and save the day, as always.

On a memorable Firing Line, WFB asked Jeane Kirkpatrick whether she could explain the continuing appeal of socialism in the Third World — despite the manifest failure of socialism. She said, in essence, “Because of the power of its rhetoric”: Socialist rhetoric is simply more appealing, to many, than the words free-market economics can offer up. All free-market economics can offer is: prosperity, general and specific.

Remember how the late Jerry Falwell defined socialism? “Shared misery.” I used to scoff when he said that. Of course, I was about 16.

‐I guess, under Hillary, you can kiss Social Security reform goodbye. Then again, it never had a chance under George W. Bush — because the Republican party, and conservatives generally, may I say, lacked the guts and sense to back him adequately.

DOVER, N.H. (AP) — Mitt Romney’s visit to New Hampshire started on a sour note Tuesday when a restaurant patron declared he would not vote for the Republican presidential contender because of his faith.

“I’m one person who will not vote for a Mormon,” Al Michaud of Dover shouted at Romney when the former Massachusetts governor approached him inside Harvey’s Bakery. . . .

Romney kept smiling as he asked, “Can I shake your hand anyway?”

Michaud replied, “No.”

I like Mitt Romney — like him a lot.

‐I like George W. Bush a lot, too. Did you hear what he said about the ROTC — or rather, about universities that ban ROTC from their campuses? “It should not be hard for our great schools of learning to find room to honor the service of men and women who are standing up to defend the freedoms that make the work of our universities possible.”

Perfect. That’s my Bush.

And to be partisan for a moment (or another moment, you might say): Can you imagine a Democratic president ever saying that?

The 2008 election is not unimportant.

‐Like you, I’m sure, I want an honorable and noble society, one that treats even its worst enemies decently. But we have already extended unprecedented privileges — and they are privileges, not rights — to the enemy noncombatants at Guantanamo. And the Democrats are wanting to do even more. As the AP reports, “Senate Democrats are backing a bill that would grant new rights to terror suspects . . ., including access to a lawyer regardless of whether the prisoners are put on trial.”

What’s next? Foot massages and back rubs? There is a line across which honor and generosity become a kind of societal sickness.


‐I hope you saw that “U.S. forces rescued 41 Iraqi civilians Sunday from an al-Qaida hide-out northeast of Baghdad, including some who showed signs of torture and broken bones . . .” (the AP, here). Events like this have interesting implications for a) Do the Iraqis want us there? b) What is the relationship between al Qaeda and the Iraq War? and other questions.

#ad#‐Last week, I did an online journal from Jordan — where the latest World Economic Forum summit on the Middle East was held. Care to see this journal, if you missed it? It is in four parts: I, II, III, and IV.

And we all know that four parts are particularly harmonious.

‐The Pentagon is certain — or says it’s certain — that China “lacks the power for a successful attack against rival Taiwan” (I have quoted this news story). Needless to say, I hope that’s right. But one can hardly have full confidence that it is, in fact, right.

By the way, isn’t “rival Taiwan” interesting? Taiwan is an itty-bitty island, and the PRC is a massive, sprawling police state. And yet, in a way, Taiwan is a rival — because it shows the Chinese a different way, a way extremely threatening to the Chinese Communist party and its exclusive rule.

‐So, Russia has launched a new ICBM, designed to thwart any defense system — such as the one being arranged in Eastern Europe. (Story here.) Listen to the words of First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov: “As of today, Russia has new [missiles] that are capable of overcoming any existing or future missile-defense systems. So, in terms of defense and security, Russia can look calmly to the country’s future.”

Whew — good thing that’s settled! Because, as we all know, Russia has no problems, nothing to think about, save that belligerent NATO, always threatening to invade, occupy, and rule the Motherland!

‐Some columns ago, I mentioned the Syrian presidential referendum, set for May 27. That was one to sweat out! Well, the referendum has been held, and you will be glad to know: President Bashar Assad won — with 97 percent of the vote. That gives him another seven years in office. “Office”!

According to this AP report, 19,635 Syrians, of the 12 million who voted, said no to Assad. They could not vote for another candidate — there were none — but they could still say no on Assad.

My question: Who are these 19,635 Syrians? And are they still alive?

Also: I trust you remember Charles Krauthammer’s “Tirana Index” (formulated in Hoxha times): The higher the vote for the designated winner, the more fraudulent, meaningless, and undemocratic the election.

‐As Lucy used to say, the doctor is in: I’m going to try to analyze those Mexicans, who booed the American contestant in the Miss Universe competition (held in Mexico City). We talk a lot about shame/honor in the Arab world — but what about Mexico? It must be deeply humiliating that millions upon millions wish to flee Mexico — and for one country: the U.S., to the north. It must be deeply, deeply humiliating to be a society so backward and hopeless that many millions believe they have no choice but to flee.

So — in my freely amateur analysis — when they boo Miss USA, or other Americans, they are really saying: “I hate myself.”

America is the enemy, to be envied and resented. America is also the friend, to provide opportunity, to save.

When those Mexicans during the U.S.-Mexico soccer game chanted “Osama, Osama,” did they really mean to express support for al Qaeda? Were they really standing up for mass murder and enslavement? Or were they instead saying, “I hate myself — I hate our condition. I hate that America has to rescue us from poverty and degradation”?

Anyway, the doctor is out.

‐Let’s have a couple of concert reviews, from the New York Sun: For a review of the New York Philharmonic, under Lorin Maazel, with Julian Rachlin, violin, go here. And for a review of Andrius Zlabys — a young Lithuanian pianist — go here.

‐Shall we have a couple of letters?


I enjoyed your story about the man in Jordan who offered you his shirt after you complimented him on it. [That appeared in Part IV of the Dead Sea Journal.] I lived in the Middle East for five years in the 1970s and learned a lesson on the awkward results of paying a compliment. The response is always, “It is yours!” At a party in Beirut I admired a young Lebanese woman’s dress. She replied, “It is yours; not tonight, of course.” The following week the dress was delivered to my apartment. A couple of years later while living in Saudi Arabia and forgetting this lesson, I complimented a dinner host’s fancy French-style telephone. Same response, “It is yours; not tonight, of course.” I laughed and didn’t give it another thought until the day we left Saudi and this gentleman brought the phone in a paper bag to the airport. I carried it on my lap on the flight to Oman.

And how about this? I mentioned that the term MENA — to refer to the Middle East and North Africa — was new to me. A very sharp and learned correspondent in Georgia wrote,

MENA is an old intel/military acronym. I was once officially a “MENA Specialist” — along the same lines as ASOS (Africa South of the Sahara, and thank God for “of”!).

I thought you might enjoy that, as I did. See you.

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